Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Relentless Machine

An expansion of something I was going on about on Twitter this morning.

Halfway through listening to an Aphex Twin song (I think it was Phlange Phace or maybe it was We Have Arrived) I realised what it was I loved about his music - and indeed what I loved about so much of the music that has captivated me on that obsessive listening-over-and-over scale.

Actually that's not true. Back up; it came to me earlier, as I was sitting on the Victoria Line, eyes squished closed, trying to blot out the world around me, as I'd neglected to bring along a book on my morning commute. I started hearing the most amazing ambient techno whistling and throbbing in my eardrums and realised it was the sound of the train itself, the left-right pulse of the wheels, the high pitched whistle of the air in the tunnel, the weird My Bloody Valentine squeal of protesting metal as we scraped round the corners. Because trains have always made the best music, especially steam engines. When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me to see the big steam engine at the Science Museum in Kensington, and it was one of the few London landmarks that, in adulthood, seemed just as gigantic and HUGE and awe-inspiring as when I was a wee 7 year old seeing it for the first time.

No, wait, that's a lie. It was an interview I read earlier this year archived on some RDJ fansite where he talked about ventolin and how it was inspired by the sounds of his asthma and his inhaler. I've never had asthma, I've taken ventolin only once for teenage kicks with my first girlfriend and it knocked me flat, but I know all about those weird wheezing bodynoises that echo in your ears when you're really ill. The operations I've had (on my hand, twice, on my teeth when I was a child) have surprised and amazed me not so much for the pain or the technology but the SOUND the clicks and repeating beats and wheezes and squish and bzzzzzz you hear under anaesthetic - that you don't realise until you wake up, it's actually the sounds that your *body* makes that your conscious mind filters out.

No no, this line of thinking goes back earlier. It was last year, even (though that's only a few weeks ago now.) A chapter I was writing in EKT, a conversation Sandy P was having with a lover - I will not to give away any spoilers for the 2 people who are still reading it - but she is describing a recurring dream she has. Based, indeed, on a recurring dream that I myself have had since childhood. A dream about being placed - trapped even - inside an all envelopping Relentless Machine. Sandy describes how, as she ages and changes, the dream takes on different significance - wonder-filled in childhood, sexual in adolescence, musical in the prime of her life, malevolent as she ages.

Sandy P doesn't know what the dream means (though it's unspoken in the novel that her lover does and this is one of the reasons that he loves her). And I didn't until this morning, either.

I love those intensely machinelike songs. Those songs comprised of dozens of little interlocking parts which are meaningless in isolation, where no particular instrument dominates or holds the focus, yet everything click together to form a cohesive whole, intricate melodies arise and interlace like clockwork. One phrase repeated over and over like a mantra, adding elements slowly, bit by tiny bit, like lace, like fractals, like the symmetrical abstract tilework of Islamic art. The same trick employed by motorik krautrock, by dronerock, by 'braindance', by minimal techno, by all these lovely repetitive beats.

The sound of this relentless machine - the relentless machine I'm trapped inside. It's this sack of bones and muscles and neurons which ferries Me around like a sad soccer mom in a station wagon. The relentless machine is mine own body.